Melissa is doing what it does best — play hard, win big. That has become the signature of this team.

The start to the 2013-14 basketball season is not any different for the Lady Cardinals. With a successful, young team returning to make its mark this year, Head Coach Claude Webb has been pleased with the 6-0 start from his squad.

With wins over Sherman, Royse City, TCA Addison, Denison, Lovejoy and North Mesquite, Melissa’ is not playing pushovers.

The week was cut short due to the weather – the Royse City Tournament was cancelled on Friday and Tuesday’s game at Kennedale was also called off – but Melissa looks to get back on the court starting Thursday at the Fairfield Tournament.

Webb answered a few questions from the Tribune regarding the early success this season.

Tribune: Biggest surprise this season?

Webb: "The average number of points we are scoring per game – 71. I thought we would be able to score this year, but didn’t think we would start off as well as we have, and especially against the quality of opponent we have faced early; four teams from 13-4A, a TAPPS 6A playoff team, and a 5A school.

All five starters have the potential to score in double figures on any given night, and that kind of balance helps us."

Biggest challenge?

"3A Region II is easily the toughest of the four regions, and the districts nearest ours are full of quality teams: Argyle, Celina, Lone Star, Gainesville, Sanger, and Krum, just to name a few. How you finish in district play is very important because it affects your playoff seeding. The biggest challenge will be getting through the early rounds of the playoffs against these teams."

Any early season standouts?

"All five of our starters from last year return, and as I expected, they are playing well together. Junior Katie Webb, District 12-3A MVP/First Team All-Region, has averaged a double-double through the first six games; 19 points/10.4 rebounds. She can play point guard or post and is a matchup problem for most opponents.

Our only senior, Whitney Taylor, was All-Region and All-District last year, and may be the best pure shooter I have ever coached. She came straight from volleyball and has burned up the nets, averaging 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Junior Megan Conlin was the District 12-3A Defensive MVP last year. She is a very unselfish player and has really embraced her role as point guard this year. She is averaging three assists and three steals per game.

Junior Keonni Conkle, also All-District last season, spent all summer working hard on her game and is our most explosive player. She is averaging 12 points a game, but could easily score 20-plus on any given night.

Our most improved player, by far, is Junior Cat Whitten. She has scored in double figures in three of our six games, but more importantly, she is a great athlete and is our defensive stopper.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with our three freshmen, Krista Butterfield, Gill Gray and Lauren. All of them have played significant minutes and are coming along well. The rest of the roster is comprised of three girls who were on the JV last year: Junior Bridie Burchett and Sophomores Hannah Tenney and Bailey Ifft. Hopefully they will give us the depth we lacked last year."

Goals for rest of preseason?

"Simply to continue to improve every day, whether it is at a practice or at a game, so we can successfully defend our district title for the fourth straight year and make a strong run in the playoffs."

District goals?

"To be undefeated district champs for the fourth straight year."

What’s different this year compared to last?

"Even though we have all five starters back, we are a much different team. The girls played a lot of basketball last summer; summer league, team camps, and AAU. They have been playing together for three years on varsity and have matured as players and as a team. The six newcomers also give us athletic ability, size, speed and depth that we didn’t have last year."

Conclusion:

"I’m very proud of the entire basketball program we have built. With the help of my assistants, Michael Bardgett and Makensie West, and middle school coordinator Heather Lane, we have won over 90 percent of our games from grades 7 through varsity the past two years, were District 12-3A champs in the seventh grade, eighth grade and varsity, and second in district at the JV level. We also have an outstanding age-group program that is developing our younger players. With this kind of effort and support we expect to be competitive every year."